Male-Coded Language in The Trades

February 26, 2024

Male-Coded Language in The Trades

While the world moves on from the assumption that everyone is a white, straight male, the trades remain firmly male-coded. When you book a tradesperson, who do you expect to see at your front door?

Rated People surveyed 3,000 people and found that 80% of UK residents still use the term ‘tradesmen’ to refer to all people in the trade industry. Gendered language is entrenched in our culture, schools, and even our search engines. Let’s take a look at just how extensive this problem is. 

Perceptions of Gendered Language in Trades

Returning to the landmark Rated People study, we can see that people are open to the idea of female tradespeople, but that male-centric language is a barrier to progress. 

87% of tradespeople think it would be good for more women to work in the industry. When asked whether people should start using ‘tradespeople’ instead of ‘tradesmen’ 51% of British tradespeople agreed, 30% disagreed and 19% were unsure. 

Research shows that gendered language starts long before hopeful tradespeople attempt to break into the industry. Rated People discovered that 73% of 16 - 18-year-olds heard the term ‘tradesmen’ during career advice, whereas only 11% heard the term ‘tradespeople’, showing that the problem starts at school. 

Interestingly, 42% of 16 - 18-year-olds say they would be more likely to consider a career in the trades industry if they heard more inclusive language in career advice. By using gender-inclusive language, we can empower a new generation of students to consider a career in the trades.

Search Engine Results

SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation, is the process of optimising your website to boost it to the top of search engines. Keywords play a big part in SEO, but they also reveal how society talks about the trades. 

When you want to hire a tradesperson, what do you type into Google? 

According to one SEO tool, ‘tradeswomen’ has a volume of 20, meaning it has been searched for an average of 20 times per month in the last year. ‘Tradesman’ has a volume of 1.9K, the gender-neutral ‘tradesperson’ has a volume of 480, and ‘tradesperson meaning’ has a volume of 140. 

The gender-neutral option pales in comparison to the male-coded norm, making it more difficult for female tradespeople to market their services online. This is yet another way that women are blocked from becoming successful tradespeople, and it can result in a massive gender pay gap.  

Gender Pay Gap 

Male-coded language is a symptom of sexism in the trade industry. Another, far more publicised symptom is the gender pay gap. 

The ONS found that the median hourly pay for full-time employees was 7.7% less for women than for men across all sectors in April 2023, while the median hourly pay for part-time employees was 3.3% higher for women than men. Some sectors are more to blame than others, with the trade industry topping the list as one of the least equitable options for women. 

Last year, Magnet Trade reported that electricians have the highest pay gap in the industry. On average, male electricians earn £26.51 an hour, whereas female electricians earn £18.54 an hour, creating a difference of £7.97.

Plumbers have the second-largest pay gap in the trade industry, despite plumbing being one of the highest-paid professions. On average, female plumbers earn £18.10 an hour, but male plumbers earn £25.88 an hour. Compared to their male counterparts, female plumbers lose on average £16,182 a year.

Magnet Trade concluded that self-employed male tradies value their skillset at an average of £23 an hour, whereas self-employed tradeswomen settle on £16 an hour. So, why do women value their work so much less than men? 

Like language, the gender pay gap is far from tangible. Some argue that the pay disparity in trades is due to women being more attracted to more stereotypically female-coded jobs, such as nursing, which has a well-publicised pay gap that favours women. These sceptics argue that the trade industry is just more male and that there are no other factors at play. 

Is the Trade Industry Just Male?

The truth is that construction is one of the most gender-segregated sectors of the UK economy. Research varies, with one source saying that there has been a 366% increase in women undertaking trade apprenticeships in the UK. On the other hand, official ONS statistics show that the percentage of women in skilled trades has barely changed in the last decade. 

We’ve all heard the argument that some jobs are just more fitting for men than women. There is no denying that the trade industry is overwhelmingly male. But, as we’ve previously discovered, systemic sexism stops women from even considering a career in the trades. 

‘Tradesman’ has become a collective term for all tradespeople, leading to women feeling shut out of a whole host of career options. 

What Is the Solution? 

Research has shown that people of all age groups (and especially those in the trade industry) want to see more support for women in trades. So, what is the solution? 

If you care about this issue, become a conscious consumer. Next time you need a plumber, electrician, or heating engineer, contact us. TaskHer is the only platform enabling homeowners to book tradeswomen in London, making it a safe haven for tradeswomen who want to escape the everyday sexism in the industry.  

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